Canine X-linked hereditary nephritis is an animal model for human X-linked hereditary nephritis with a premature stop codon in the alpha5(IV) gene of collagen type IV. We used this model to examine the other alpha(IV) chains at the mRNA and protein level in the kidney, since in human X-linked hereditary nephritis, the alpha3(IV) and alpha4(IV) chains are often absent from the glomerular basement membrane, although both are encoded by autosomal genes. cDNA probes for the alpha1(IV)-alpha6(IV) chains were generated from normal dog kidney using the polymerase chain reaction. Sequences were >/=88% identical at the DNA level and >/=92% identical at the protein level to the respective human alpha(IV) chains. By Northern analysis, transcripts for the alpha1(IV), alpha2(IV), and alpha6(IV) chains were detected at comparable levels in both normal and affected male dog kidney RNA. As previously shown, the transcript for the alpha5(IV) chain was reduced to approximately 10% of normal. Unexpectedly, the alpha3(IV) and alpha4(IV) transcripts were both decreased >/=77% in affected male dog kidney, suggesting a mechanism coordinating the expression of these three basement membrane components. The NC1 domain of collagen type IV isolated from normal dog glomeruli was positive for the alpha3(IV), alpha4(IV), and alpha5(IV) chains by Western blotting. In contrast, in the NC1 domain isolated from affected dog glomeruli, these three chains were not detectable, except for a trace of alpha3(IV) dimer. In X-linked hereditary nephritis, the absence of the alpha3(IV) and alpha4(IV) chains from glomerular basement membrane may reflect factors acting at the transcriptional and/or translational level in addition to the protein assembly level.